Entertainment » Music

Kevin on Kabaret :: Summer Dog Days? (Not)

by Kevin Scott Hall
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 5, 2013

When it comes to singing, Lynda D'Amour fits the very definition of Boston Strong. The Beantown native is bringing her powerhouse vocals and good humor to Don't Tell Mama on August 11 and 25.

I had to find out, first of all, if her name, so fitting for a glamorous cabaret singer, was authentic.

"It's my God-given name," D'Amour laughed. "But it could have been better. My mother almost named me Melody. My first cabaret show was called 'All About Love,' but it was tongue-in-cheek. It was really all about me!"


She’s Boston Strong

Her latest offering is called "The Hungry Years" and features the Neil Sedaka title song. Throughout, she tells various stories of friends and the songs that remind her of them. "I have a lot of friends from different circles and the only time we’d get together and share stories was over dinner," she explained. "So it’s a basic need for food, but really a need for a deeper connection, for love and emotion and interpersonal relationships." She paused before adding, "Of course, I knew some of them would be at my show, so I had to embellish the stories and change names!"

D’Amour is hard to categorize as a singer-she’s equally adept at show tunes, jazz, pop, and even r&b. Although she’s funny but matter-of-fact in her patter delivery, the woman can add oomph to a song like it’s nobody’s business! At the end of one knock ’em dead number, she exclaimed, "I need decaf!" No need-the audience was enjoying her in full diva mode.

"It’s extremely difficult to market," D’Amour acknowledged about her varied styles. "The first question someone asks when you tell them you’re a singer is, ’Who do you sound like?’ or ’Whose music do you sing?’ They need a reference point."


D’Amour has also been challenged introducing cabaret to her hometown, although she’s played seemingly every room up there. "They don’t always understand what the art of cabaret is supposed to be-I think when they hear the word, they think of the movie. So, you have to educate them, and then try to build a following."

"Here," she said of New York, "audiences are tuned in, and there is a pulse and energy to the city. In the short amount of time I’ve been going back and forth, I’ve met the most generous artists, who have shared information and opened their arms to me."

I might say, though, that at the end of her current show, D’Amour pays tribute to her beloved hometown and the trials they have been through this year, with a pair of familiar songs that are used to devastatingly emotional effect.

"I had seven family members at the finish line when the bombs went off," D’Amour told me. "We were so blessed, nobody was hurt. But I didn’t feel I needed to set up the songs-nobody needs to tell New Yorkers about those feelings."

Catch the incredibly warm and astonishingly talented Lynda D’Amour while she is in our midst. Let’s give her one of those big, welcoming hugs. August 11 and 25 at Don’t Tell Mama . . .


Cabaret Royalty

While things have slowed down a bit for August, I thought I’d catch up with some cabaret royalty, namely Richard Skipper. Skipper is best known for being the premiere Carol Channing interpreter in the world for many years. These days, he is a busy producer, host and writer-in fact, he has an upcoming book about all the Dollys of "Hello Dolly!" (For more on the book, visit this website.)

Right now, though, Skipper is busy campaigning for his icon to get a long overdue Kennedy Center Honor in Washington D.C. at the end of the year. "She represents an era of Broadway that no longer exists," Skipper said, explaining that the three-time Tony winner took her shows "to the provinces" (in Channing’s words) before bringing her shows to Broadway. Channing played the lead in "Hello Dolly!", her signature role, over five thousand times.

"Her mission in life was to entertain, and she did it in every area of the business," Skipper continued. "Some say her personality was too big for film, but she got an Oscar nomination for ’Thoroughly Modern Millie,’ In the ’70s, she was also part of television culture as a guest on variety shows and other shows, and she recorded children’s stories and books, in addition to all the cast recordings."


And who knew that Carol Channing did the first-ever half-time show, at the Super Bowl of 1971? If that’s not enough to get an award, I don’t know what is.

Channing wrote her best-selling memoir in 2003 and her life was celebrated in the 2011 documentary, "Carol Channing: Larger Than Life" (in which Skipper also appeared).

Skipper also pointed out that Channing has always been a supporter of arts education in schools and an ardent supporter of gay rights. "The revival of ’Hello Dolly!’ took place at the height of the AIDS crisis," he said. "In all those out-of-town tryouts, the local gay bars would do a Broadway Bares type of event to raise money for the cause, and she always made an appearance."

As to his own history with the icon, our intrepid Skipper shared this story: "I came to New York to perform as an actor and Carol was just one of the impressions I did, but people would always ask for it. So I put a show together and ended up doing it for Carol Channing the night before I opened my show!"

Skipper explained that Channing had appeared with the Gay Men’s Chorus and that the after-party was at the Regent’s bar on the East Side. He crashed the party dressed as Carol.

"I was scared to death!" Skipper recalled. "But I was brought over to her table. She was so warm and friendly and held my hand. Eventually, she asked me when I was going to do a show. I said, ’I’ll do it upstairs in ten minutes!’ So the entire party came up to see my show!"


Since then, Skipper and Channing have remained friends. "I think the friendship developed because I treated her with respect, and everything I did onstage was to honor her." Still, he mused, "There is a spark to her that I can only scratch the surface of."

Skipper himself was invited to Channing’s home in California when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "When you go into her house, the walls are covered with photos of every president and the royal family since 1949. She was a friend of LBJ, but she performed for all the presidents, regardless of political affiliation. And people in the industry respected her and her work ethic."

Soon, Skipper, along with Lee Roy Reams, Marge Champion, and Julie Budd, will be releasing a public service announcement about the campaign. For now, though, you can go onto the Kennedy Center Honors website, www.kennedy-center.org. Right there on the front page, you can submit a recommendation.

"The award is chosen by a committee, but there have been a lot of rumblings over the years about people who have been overlooked, so they are listening," Skipper said.

So get to work, EDGE readers! Go to the site and nominate this ageless superstar now . . .


Sue’s Most Interesting Project

Cabaret royalty Sue Matsuki begins an interesting project this month. The versatile singer will do monthly shows at the Metropolitan Room, focusing on a different genre each month. This month, the "Genres" show features jazz. Upcoming months include country/western, musical theater, and holiday music. Catch Sue’s first outing on August 8 . . .

Singer/songwriter Boice just released his second album, "Give Me Audio #1" (digital only). This time, he is presenting an intoxicating blend of dance/electronica. He appears at Webster Hall on a bill with other artists, August 6 . . .


Faves

And now, Kev’s faves: The 6th annual MetroStar Challenge continues on Monday nights, with a new winner to be crowned on August 16. Previous winners have garnered major positive reviews and have headlined around the country . . . 54 Below is the hotspot for hot Brazlian singer Paulo Szot (Tony-winner for "South Pacific"), August 5-11 . . . later the same month, the club hosts a revival of "Sibling Rivalry," a classic hit from the Callaway sisters, Ann Hampton and Liz, from some years back. It runs August 28-31 . . .

The uproarious female trio The Chalks is back at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on August 18, after a too-long hiatus. They write their own satirical songs and their comedy and musicality are in full blended harmony . . . Melba Moore and Andre Ward come to B.B. King’s on August 23 . . .and the summer Tudor Greens concerts (free) continue on August 7 with a fabulous line-up of guests-a great way to check out a bunch of talent on a summer’s night. It begins at 6:30 pm at the park on Second Avenue between E. 41st and 42nd (rain date August 8) . . .and Nesha Ward brings her new show, "Imma Be That Nerd," to the Duplex on August 11 and 12.

August may be slower than normal, but there is still plenty to see. I’ll be back next month. Until then . . . I’ll see you over cocktails.


Kevin Scott Hall is the author of Off the Charts! (2010, iUniverse) and the memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (2014, Wisdom Moon).


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